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A photo of the cocaine seized by HSI in Buffalo, New York. (Courtesy of the Nova Scotia RCMP).

RCMP assist in major international cocaine bust

By Joe Thomson Sep 26, 2023 | 11:06 AM

An international drug ring has been interrupted, with help from RCMP.

On August 10, the United States’ department of Homeland Security, seized 433 kilograms of cocaine from a transport truck in Buffalo, New York. The cocaine was destined for Canada.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Buffalo special agent Matthew Scarpino detailed the bust. saying that the truck driver a 37-year-old man from Hamilton, Ontario, entered the US on August 7 at the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan. Scarpino says HSI agent surveilled the man for three days until the search warrant was executed on his truck nd he was subsequently arrested.

The investigation that led to the seizure, titled Operation Heinze, took 16 months. In the Spring of 2022, the Nova Scotia RCMP identified a criminal group that involved the driver of the truck. They say it was one of the more sophisticated drug trafficking networks in Atlantic Canada and was facilitating the movement of imported cocaine throughout the Maritimes and Ontario.

In May of this year, the RCMP observed a suspicious bag hand-off involving a truck driver. They later pulled the truck over near the Cobequid pass and executed a search warrant in which they found 40 kilograms of cocaine. They say it was on its way to the network’s dealers in Halifax.

All of these moments led to the seizure in Buffalo, which American officials are calling the largest cocaine bust in western New York’s history.

RCMP Superintendent Jason Popik explained just how much money this seizure represents.

“If I was going to look at 433 kilograms, that means we’ve got 433,000 grams. A gram is currently going in in Nova Scotia for between 80 to $100. That’d be about $430 million, if my math is correct,” said Popik.

On September 1, the RCMP conducted a serious of searches throughout Halifax and arrested four people involved with the drug ring. They seized four kilograms of cocaine along with $170,000 in cash, and roughly $120,000 in silver bars, along with electronic devices, and six vehicles.

Officials from the RCMP and HSI brief the media on Operation Heinze. (Photo by Joe Thomson).

The four people were charged with a slew of drug trafficking related offences including:

• Participation in Activities of Criminal Organization
• Conspiracy to Commit an Indictable Offence
• Possession of a Controlled Substance (Cocaine) for the Purpose of Trafficking
• Possession of a Controlled Substance (Methamphetamines) for the Purpose of Trafficking
• Possess, produce, sell, import or transport anything intending that it will be used to produce a controlled substance or traffic in a controlled substance
• Possession of Cannabis for the Purpose of Selling
• Possession of Property Obtained by Crime
• Laundering Proceeds of Crime

The RCMP say the investigation remains ongoing, and it is possible more arrests will be made, and more charges will be laid.